“But we never knew, we children, because the death of a baby is a melody played softly through its mother’s life like an intimate dirge, and you have to have died a little yourself to hear the music.” (in Nora Seton, The Kitchen Congregation)
I am learning how it feels to live with sorrow. Real sorrow. Not the shock – that goes away. Not the anger – that only masks what’s underneath. Not the desperate clutch of some passing fancy that you mistakenly call hope, but tastes much more like denial when the fruit is tried. Not the bandwagon that offers shallow answers for why tragedy occurs. True sorrow is none of these things. True sorrow does not answer any of the questions that well up in the heart of the sufferer: why me? how is this possible? when will it end?
Sorrow just is. It is a companion, a fellow pilgrim. It is the desperate ache for what might have been but is not; the cry of a heart, “This should not be and it is.” It is the burden of what was lost, or never even sought and now will never be. Sorrow is the final surrender in our bloody battle against darkness.
When Josh and I took our kiddos to Hillside cemetery a few weeks ago it took me a minute to get out of the car. The grave is only feet from the road and I could see it from my seat. I had been full of tears all day – for days before – feeling the terrible memories come sweeping over me like a flood. And beneath the tears was a new kind of reality. Sorrow doesn’t always manifest in tears. I sat in the van, looking over at the most precious plot of earth in this wide world, and I felt my companion nuzzle in close to my heart. “I’m here,” Sorrow said. “I have never left and you are only beginning to learn what it is like to walk with me.”
I have two beautiful children who are beautifully alive. They are also born from sorrow – mothers who could not care for them. Their hearts broke to surrender a child whose blood was their blood. You can talk about the beauty of adoption and you would be right. And adoption comes from sorrow. It always has and always will.
But the truth is it takes courage to face Sorrow. Courage to open one’s heart to the Sorrow that is Reality.
A few months ago I stumbled upon a book that has left a permanent mark. Anne Rice’s story, told from the perspective of Christ, tracing his first adult years and leading up to His first public miracle at Cana. When I reached his temptation in the desert the tears started flowing.
“…this is not my prison. This is my Will. This is your Will…And I will go down, down with every single one of them into the depths of Sheol, into the private darkness…I will be with them, every single solitary one of them. I am one of them! And I am your Son. I am your only begotten Son. And driven here by your Spirit, I cry because I cannot do anything but grasp it, grasp it as I cannot contain it in this flesh-and-blood mind, and by your leave I cry…I am alone. I am absolutely alone because I am the only one that can do this. What judgment can there ever be for man, woman, child – if I am not there for every heartbeat at every depth of their torment?”
Has there ever been Courage like it lived in Jesus? This Savior and Lion of a man. Courage to receive Sorrow – to welcome it – to live with it – to walk with it. Christ was and is the Sorrow of God personified.
If I want Jesus to walk with me I must welcome Sorrow as well. Without blame and bitterness. It’s the only way. And the tears that come from walking with Sorrow are stored up, each one counted and each one precious to the One who feels it too.